One of these days when I have my thoughts together on the subject I am going to write about the educational system here in Georgia. Right now all I can say is that it is in desperate need of help - at least the language-teaching aspect does! I can't write about it yet, because while I know that there's a problem, I'm not entirely sure what that problem is. I've been talking with Tea about it quite a bit, and when I have a better grasp on it and can write about it more intelligently, I'll post on the subject. But, for all it lacks, the Ministry of Education is doing some things right. By the year 2014, the Ministry wants all Georgian teachers to be certified in their field. To become certified, the teachers have to take tests in their subject area. From what I've been told, the tests sound a lot like the Praxis tests in the U.S. Each teacher has to pass a general educational skills test as well as the test that covers his/her subject matter. The teacher can take the test multiple times if he/she fails it the first time. Lika took her English certification test this past year and missed passing it by one point. She will be trying for it again in the spring. Tea will be taking the test for the first time this spring. ......and she is very nervous about it.
One day last week when Tea and I were writing some lesson plans for our classes the next day, she showed me a sample test that she was given to use as practice for her upcoming certification test. We looked through it together and she identified the areas that she knows she struggles with - speaking and writing. I told her that we could practice both of these skills in preparation for the test. Of course, we talk to each other every day, but the test format is very intimidating. On the test are written a situation prompt and brief guidelines for the answer. Thirty seconds are allowed for planning one's answer, and then one minute is allowed for the answer to be given. That time constraint is the kicker! We did a couple of practices, and we'll do more in the future. Tea doesn't like doing it, but she knows she'll improve the more she does it. She does like writing. She asked me to give her some topics about which she can write short essays. The first one I gave her was to compare the summer and winter seasons here in Shamgona, to say which she preferred, and why she preferred it. She wrote a page and a half (long-hand) and I read it and made corrections. We talked through the corrections so that she could hear the right word order and learn some of the rules for writing. I gave her a second essay topic a couple of days ago, and this evening she produced her notebook with her new essay. She handed me the essay and a red pen. The topic was family. I started reading her essay in which she described her family - talking about her husband, her children, and "our grandmother." Then she wrote, "There is one more member of my family - her name is Stephanie and she is our guest." She went on to write that they are all very happy to have me here and feel comfortable enough with me living in their house to consider me a part of the family. I looked up at Tea and smiled - she was beaming. I told her that it means so much to me for her to feel that way.
And it does. I realize that I am here to teach English - that's my job. But there is so much more to my being here than just a job. These are people that I am building relationships with - and that's what really matters in this life - people. Relationships. That's what Life is about. I realized today that Tea is more than my co-teacher. She is my friend. I am here to teach English to her and to my students, but what is most important is the friendship that is being built by spending time together day after day. For Tea and her family to think of me as a part of their family means the world to me - especially right now when my family is a world away.